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Upcoming special education conference presents networking opportunities, support and new ideas

Written on September 18th, 2009

OACS Special Education Curriculum Conference takes place Sept. 18

A special education conference taking place Friday, Sept. 18, will present opportunities for networking as well as offer support and new ideas, says Mary Guldemond, special education co-ordinator for the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS).

“Special education teachers love this annual conference,” says Guldemond, noting that as the school year begins there are often many new problems to tackle, including student programs, schedules and collaborating with classroom teachers.

The one-day event takes place at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville and includes a morning session with Guldemond on supporting students with behavioural challenges.

“I’m very excited about this topic, as it is one we have wanted to address for a long time, but have not had the opportunity to do so until now,” says Guldemond, adding that several new books on more effective approaches for handling behavioural challenges will be highlighted.

The session will investigate what causes student behaviour problems and how to address them, with the core recommendation that a flexible and differentiated approach be taken.

“’One size does not fit all’ applies as much to behavioural issues as to academics,” says Guldemond.

A team approach involving the classroom teacher, the administrator, the parents, and the student will also be strongly encouraged.

The afternoon session will be facilitated by Kimberly Maich, sessional assistant professor at Redeemer University College and autism specialist with McMaster Children’s Hospital, and Ellen Lengyell, consultant for the Autism Spectrum Disorders School Support Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

Maich and Lengyell will provide practical suggestions and actual samples of visual tools to enhance instruction for students with learning difficulties in the resource room as well as in inclusive classroom settings.

Guldemond notes teachers often forget to use visual reinforcements to support instruction. This can result in confusion and frustration for students, which can lead to behaviour problems.

The session with Maich and Lengyell is intended to inspire and help participants include more visuals in their programs.

“This will help students who have difficulty with memory, attention, organization, and other executive functions experience less frustration and greater school success,” says Guldemond.

The co-ordinator adds she hopes the conference helps participants gain a better understanding of students who struggle behaviourally in the school setting.

She would also like to see them inspired to show Christ’s compassion to these students “who have a great need for adults who understand them and who care.”